Monday, 20 September 2010

Day 3: Chino - Tsutaki-juku

Distance covered: 18.6km
Weather: Drizzly then fine

I got up at 5.30am and breakfasted on the rum raisin cakes, fruit yoghurt, and iced coffee I'd bought the night before. It was drizzling as I left the hotel at 8am but stopped after a few minutes. I had to walk a couple of kilometres to rejoin the Koishu Kaido, and along the way I passed the shrine where yesterday's festival had ended. I expected to see the pillars in place, but they were still lying on the ground, so I didn't feel so bad about leaving the festival early. There were some people milling around and I figured they were going to raise the pillars in the hours ahead. Unfortunately I didn't have time to wait around, so after taking a few photos I continued on to Chino station to rejoin the Koshu Kaido where I'd left it the previous day.

The logs at Tatsuya Sukura shrine ready for raising

Half an hour or so later I passed another shrine and heard shouting and band music. As luck would have it, there was another Onbashira festival in progress and they were in the middle of raising one of the pillars. It was quite a display. I watched while the pillar was raised by hand by teams of festival-goers using ropes passed around tree trunks, with three guys clinging to the top of the pillar giving occasional displays of acrobatics to the accompaniment of chanting and bursts of music from a small band.

Raising a pillar at Sakamuro shrine

All hands to the rope!

Securing the erect pillar

Another pillar ready for raising

I watched until the pillar was fully raised, then continued on my way along the Koshu Kaido, which for most of the morning followed busy Route 20. Just after passing through the post town of Kanazawa I came across this magnificent old keyaki tree marking the site of an ichirizuka, or route marker.

I was pretty hungry at this stage and running out of water, but there were no restaurants in sight. I passed another hiker going the same way as me, but since he seemed busy taking a photograph of something and I was desperate for water, I didn't stop to say hello. I little further on I spotted a vending machine down a side road and went to get a couple of bottles of water. The other hiker must have overtaken me during this pit stop, because shortly after rejoining the Koshu Kaido I saw him standing by the side of the road chatting to a couple of old women who were sitting at the entrance to a heavily wooded park.

One of the old women saw me and shouted, "Hey, you can't come here without looking at this park. It's wonderful." I went over and introduced myself. The other hiker was a retiree from Nara who spent his spare time wandering the countryside listening to all sorts of stories locals had to tell. He was collecting these stories as a kind of unofficial, unwritten history of the country. After listening in on the conversation for a while, I excused myself and went to look at the park, which according to my map was called Fujimi park. It was nothing special, but I guess if you hadn't seen many parks you might think it was wonderful.

I was eager to press on, since when I mentioned my goal for the day to the people I'd just met they thought I still had a long way to go. Soon after this I came across a stretch of the Koshu Kaido that was marked impassable on my map, which gave two alternate routes. I followed what I thought was one of these alternate routes but the path soon disappeared and I found myself in a woods wading through waist high grass. I resisted the urge to turn back and struggled on till I saw a road in front of me, which I reached by scrambling up a bank. Minutes later I was back on the Koshu Kaido after seeking directions at a scrapyard.

For the next few kilometres I followed a quiet country lane before rejoining Route 20 with about four kilometres to go. The lane was up and down but the pleasant scenery took my mind off my tiring body. I finally arrived at the Tsutaki-juku rest area at around 2pm. I still hadn't had lunch (though I'd been snacking on Scrummy Mix throughout the day), so the first thing I did was have a bowl of soba noodles with mushrooms. I then turned my attention to figuring out how to get to my hotel, which was several kilometres north in the town of Kobuchizawa. I'd intended on walking (it looked close enough on Google maps!), but when I asked a couple of local stallholders at the rest area about the road they said it was windy and uphill all the way, so I called a taxi instead. Not only was the road windy and uphill, but there were some roadworks along the way that would have made walking pretty dangerous, so I was satisfied that taking a taxi was the right decision.

I checked into my hotel at around 3pm. After relaxing and doing a bit of handwashing, I went out for dinner at a wee curry restaurant by the station where the recommended dish of the day was banana curry. It was delicious! On my way back to my hotel I bought a locally-made purin (a Japanese-style custard pudding) at a store inside the station. Unfortunately it had been in the freezer with the ice cream and was frozen solid, so I spent a few minutes back in my hotel room cupping the plastic container in the palms of my hands until it was soft enough to eat. It was still much nicer than the mass-produced purin they sell in convenience stores. I went to bed at around 9pm, my body sore but my taste buds well and truly satisfied.


Anonymous said...

"I'd intended on walking (it looked close enough on Google maps!), but when I asked a couple of local stallholders at the rest area about the road they said it was windy and uphill all the way, so I called a taxi instead."

Are you cheating!? ;)


Walking fool said...

Definitely not cheating! I walked every kilometre of the Koshu Kaido - and then some.